Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named a senior U.S. diplomat Thursday to help expedite President Obama's order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within a year. Daniel Fried, now Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, will, among other things, work to persuade other countries to accept Guantanamo detainees.
The decision to tap Assistant Secretary Fried, one of the State Department's highest-profile diplomats, for the Guantanamo post underscores the priority the Obama administration puts on closing the controversial detention facility.
Fried, a former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, worked at the White House National Security Council during the Clinton administration.
As Assistant Secretary for Europe in the Bush administration, Fried was a key figure in executing U.S. policy on Kosovo, European missile defense, and last year's Russia-Georgia conflict.
Announcing the appointment at a news briefing, State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood said Fried's European experience will be valuable as the administration turns to European countries, among others, to accept Guantanamo detainees who cannot be returned to their home countries.
"I think if you look at Assistant Secretary Fried's background, he's got a great deal of experience in working with countries in Europe and other places around the globe," he said. "The secretary [of state] felt that in order to help facilitate this process, we need somebody who's got the skills and insight who can do this, and she and others felt that Dan [Fried] was the appropriate choice for this."
The Bush administration opened the Guantanamo camp in 2002 to house terrorism suspects, many of them detained in the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Most detainees have been held without formal charges and the camp has long been the target of criticism from human rights groups and other governments.
Hundreds of the camp's original detainees have been repatriated or otherwise re-settled, but it still houses about 250 inmates. Fried will work to find countries to accept the 60 or more detainees who will not face U.S. criminal charges, some of whom would risk persecution if returned to their nations of birth.
Fried will remain in his European affairs post until the person nominated to succeed him, former Clinton White House foreign policy aide Philip Gordon, is confirmed by the Senate.
The Guantanamo portfolio has been handled on an interim basis by the State Department's ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, Clinton Williamson, who will return to that task full-time when Fried becomes available.